At a time that’s left most of the world wondering if we’re in some kind of sci-fi movie straight out of the 90’s, many of us have turned to our kitchens in search of solace, familiarity, and comfort. Maybe it’s because many of us are bolted down in our homes, abiding by the social-distancing measures taking place to annihilate Covid-19, or maybe it’s because there’s just really nowhere to go at the moment. Whether you like it or not, dining in is the new black, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Currently in my own self-isolation after a long-haul flight – and prompted by border authorities “strongly advising” me from leaving my home for two weeks – I’ve been rummaging though my kitchen looking for ways to make substantial meals with staples I already have at home. This Mac ‘n’ cheese recipe totally fits that bill, and has the added bonus of a comfort-food-factor that’s almost as satisfying as getting a big warm (sanitized) hug from someone you love.
If you happen to have fresh truffles – or truffle oil – you can, and should, add on top of the pasta just before eating. I’ve added the option of a panko crust to finish if you fancy an extra crunch, but really, you can eat the pasta smothered in cheese sauce, piping hot, right out of the (socially distant) pan.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese – Serves 4 to 6
For the Pasta and Cheese sauce
- 500 grams elbow macaroni, boiled in salted water and drained
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 2 cups full-fat milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1½ – 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
For the Panko Topping (optional)
- 1 cup panko or breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 tablespoon shopped parsley
- ½ clove garlic, minced
For the Pasta
In a large pot, cook the noodles in boiling, well-sated water until al dente, as per packaged directions. Drain and set aside, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.
For the Cheese Sauce
- Heat milk and cream together in a pot, keep warm.
- In a medium pot, melt butter until bubbles start to form at the edges of the pot.
- Whisk in the flour – this is your roux.
- Slowly add milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly. It’s important that you don’t dump all the milk in at once to avoid a lumpy sauce.
- Heat the mixture until it bubbles over medium heat.
- Reduce heat to low and add in cheeses. Stir until melted.
- Add pasta to cheese mixture and toss to combine. Let macaroni and cheese sit for five minutes to thicken. Serve immediately.
At this point, you can either serve the mac ‘n’ cheese as is, or, go completely gluttonous and add a panko topping (recipe below).
For the Panko Topping
Mix all the ingredients together, and sprinkle over the macaroni. Bake in a preheated 200 Celsius (390 F) oven until the top is golden brown.